By Sean Moffitt - Atlanta, Georgia - USA

An OBX130 Perspective

At least once a day during the OBX130 I said to myself, “What the hell am I doing?”, “This was such a bad idea!”, “I can’t believe I ate half that bag of …!”, etc.  No wind to sail with, and no crew to converse with, and plenty of sun to not be able to hide from made it easy to hate the OBX130 on a daily basis.  Trying to explain to some of my family why in the world I would want to do something like ‘drop the kids off at the pool’ while on the water with only polytarp separating everyone’s eyes from my careful aiming was difficult.  Or  why I would knowingly want to sail in a straight line for 7 hours day after day.  How could I want to endure those things again next summer?! All I could say was that they would never be able to experience the beaches I saw or the good times I had unless they sailed there.  No, power boats would not do.  I started to understand this on the second day. 

It was a particularly hard day of sailing for me and quitting was on the forefront of my mind.  However, a walk around Dump Island reinvigorated me for the whole trip.  It is paramount these days to be alone and see nature in its pure form. On my walk I saw Black Skimmers catching dinner with the sunset on my right and the Atlantic’s breakers on the horizon.  On my walk back, arms loaded with driftwood, I realized that I would pay anything to see such a thing no matter what the cost.  The next camp, Cape Lookout, I sipped whiskey with friends around a camp fire surrounded by 360 degrees of sunset, crediting my good times to my rigors. Those experiences would not have happened if I had not sailed to them.


Dump Island – Patox and Serendipity

click thumbnails to enlarge

A Good Time – Me and Bill

Cape Lookout – Meditating

Sailing the OBX130 in my small boat, Patox (the build is here and here), entails constant and persistent attention for hours and hours on six or more variables at a time while battling sun, overused muscles, the very hard bottom of the boat, and a plethora of other wondrous hardships many of you can identify with.  On top of this, camping on the OBX130 was also not the easiest.

This was my own fault.  I was unprepared for everything outside of sailing, something I realized in the car on the way to our launch point, Cedar island.  The first night I ‘camped’ in my boat on the water.  To do this I used my polytarp ‘rain-fly’ (which my dog liked to jump on with  un-clipped nails when I was gone), spring clamps, and my boom. Lets just say: ‘Thank god it did not rain’. When on the beach all I had was a 3 man tent. I used it with one less section of the tent poles so that it would be small enough to use my ‘rain fly’ over it.  Lets also keep that one short with a: ‘Thank god it did not rain’.

I just had to laugh it  all off; I know my brother Paul was.  But, sleeping on the beach  was much better than my on-the-water setup.  I slept like a baby using only a bed sheet, towel-pillow, and Goldbond powder. Also, I had to rely on my fathers camping stove for dinners.  I decided that next year I will pre-plan and cook for every meal,  have a real tent, have a real rain fly, have real sailing gloves (not gardening gloves), healthy trail mix, etc, etc – a list I made during my long sails.  As for the performance of Patox, this is where the good things come in, I could not have asked for a better showing. 

Keeping up was no problem.  Not once did I have trouble keeping up with the other boats.  Several times the other boats had trouble keeping up with me.  Once I ran  into the back of Paul’s boat Serendipity.

With a 72 square foot sail and good wind on that 11’, 370 lb (loaded) boat going 5.5 knots is no challenge.  The fun part is goosing the wind just right to ride a wave for 30 seconds or more.  Patox is so fast that sailing too fast was a problem.  On several tacks I would run into the waves in front of me and submarine.

Even reefed Patox is a screamer.  With no reefs my top speed was 6.4 knots, with one reef my top speed was 5 knots, and with two reefs my top speed was 4.5 knots.  If the OBX130 in 2009 was a race, I definitely did not lose.


All of these results were way above my expectations.  In terms of boat features I am extremely thankful for, I nominate three things.  The splash guards work wonders on the water that Patox’s flat bottom and pram bow likes to splash up onto the deck.  Also the mizzen was essential in the kinds of wind we sometimes faced for reefing and for the squall we went through. And my dear hatches.  I can’t imagine what it would take to get water through those things, and I never want to find out. Having said all that, if the OBX130 was on any open waters my Patox would simply not be able to participate.  The Piccup Squared is just too small and too flat-bottomy to handle real wind and waves in open waters.  Inside the barrier islands I always knew that safety was a few miles away.  In the open waters of the Atlantic, I would not feel comfortable.

All of these factors, particularly the unpleasant ones of sailing, made me love the OBX130.  Now that I am out of the boat, I am very grateful that the OBX130 gave me the opportunity to learn so much about how to sail.  One day it was a broad reach for 7 hours, and after that 7 hours you better believe I learned how to sail on a broad reach.  Another day it was 6 hours of sailing on a reach, and after 6 hours you better believe I learned how to sail on a reach.  There was not much else to do.  I knew how to sail before, but obviously, with that practice I understood more of the subtleties that go with heading towards a destination in an efficient way.  And, as with everything, I learned exactly how much I do not understand about sailing.  For example, tacking, another world in sailing, was mercifully absent this year as the winds were peculiarly perfect for our raid.  Maybe I am a masochist, but those un-pleasantries of sailing ended up making everything else in the trip tremendous.  For this, next year I hope there is tacking.


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